What Makes For the Best Rivalries in Individual Sports and How Can Marketers Capitalize on Them?

Scott C. Ambrose and Nathan Schnitzlein

Rivalries in sports give fans a unique connection with their team, school, or favorite athlete. The game or match may also draw more attention because of geographical considerations, cultural aspects, and team disposition. Furthermore, rivalries in single-player sports expose the intimacy and personalities of the opposing competitors. Understanding rivalries, particularly in individual sports, can give marketers an upper hand in identifying areas to promote their brand. This study analyzes 11 elements of team rivalry defined by Tyler and Cobbs (2015) and applies a similar methodology for individual sports. The results suggest that parity, defining moments, and frequency of competition are key pillars of an individual-sport rivalry. Star power of individual players along with contrast between competitors also enhance rivalries. By identifying these main elements of an individual-sport rivalry, marketers can design and execute strategies that more effectively capitalize on rivalry.